Some may groan throughout the Christmas season, known as a time of giving. Buying gifts, agonizing over the bills and standing in line to mail items to far away family and friends are just part of the stress many experience.

However, all research indicates that giving is good for you in several ways. It can even help you live longer.

Giving Prevents Depression

Volunteering time, donating money, or even giving gifts to family and friends re-establishes a social connection that sometimes gets lost in the world of Facebook and Twitter. Dr. Frank Lipman who wrote an article on the subject, said being around others lowers a risk for depression. Additionally, giving leaves you with a type of high, similar to the same feeling when you participate in sports. It releases oxytocin, which lessens stress and anxiety as well as generates positive feelings.

Giving Helps Reduce Illness

Giving does directly affect your health. There was a study conducted by Doug Oman of the University of California, Berkley, in 1999 that showed elderly people volunteering for several charities or organizations increased their chances to live over a five-year period. The study suggested they were 44 percent less likely to die over their non-volunteer peers. Another 2003 study by Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan had similar findings.

The idea is that giving, whether it’s in time, practical needs or money, reduces stress. Another 2006 John Hopkins University, done in cooperation with the University of Tennessee, showed those who took an interest in others had lower blood pressure.

Research done by Corporation for National & Community Service in Washington D.C. in 2009 proves giving of yourself actually makes your heart stronger. Volunteers have fewer heart problems overall, but even those with heart disease, and surviving a heart attack, can live longer by volunteering, according to the study. Those people saw less depression and that helped them live longer, according to the study.

Volunteering also had a side benefit of getting you moving and away from the television. Moving physically helps in improving your overall health.

Giving Helps Your Career

This can happen in several ways. According to a Forbes article, those looking to expand their skills can easily do so by volunteering at charitable groups. The opportunity also offers a chance to network for a career job.

Many employers are now looking for people who have desires to give back and are offering more options to fulfill desires to volunteer. Employers are finding offering those opportunities motivates employees and keeps them loyal. That leads to better retention. Employees are happier and are more productive at work, which improves their chances of promotion. Giving back also shows a boss a personal side and demonstrates an employee’s values.

Giving Makes You Happier

Some of this is biological. The National Institutes of Health conducted a 2006 study, which concluded that giving activates part of the brain associated with trust, social connection and pleasure. Giving also releases endorphins, which are linked with happiness. It also ends with either expressing or instilling gratitude and that also produces positive feelings.

The Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness co-directors Michael McCullough and Robert Emmons discovered that cultivating gratitude in college students resulted in more exercise, more optimism and a more positive outlook about their lives.

Once a person starts giving, it is common for others to follow suit. There was an incident at a fast-food restaurant over the past year where one person decided to pay for the meal of the person behind them at the drive-through. The fast-food clerk working the drive-through said the person receiving the free meal then offered to pay for the person behind them. This was repeated for an hour and a half.

So, while buying gifts, writing checks to charities and spending time doing something for your community during the Christmas season can be exhausting, the benefits are worth the effort. Besides, deciding to gift during the holiday season could very well create a positive habit that will have long-term benefits.

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